What happened last week?
Two things. One was a Panorama film that found flaws in claims that there was a VIP sex ring in Westminster and that three boys were murdered, suggesting the Metropolitan Police had been credulous and unwise in having earlier described one accuser’s evidence as “true”. The other was that the Met apologised for failing to tell Lord Brittan that he was in the clear following an allegation of rape. He died some months after the police concluded the case was going nowhere.
Why is Tom Watson being attacked?
He made the initial claim of a high-profile sex ring in Westminster, but has recently modified his language, having passed on to the police a large number of claims sent to him. While evidence that came through him has led to convictions, he is under fire, mainly from the right, partly because he has made far more allegations of child abuse against Tory than against Labour politicians (and didn’t back a motion against Labour MP Greville Janner), and partly because he is accused of going beyond his brief as an MP.
On the specific claim of a rape of a woman in the 1970s, he was angered by a police decision not to proceed with the case, and wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions, which led to the Met revisiting its investigation.
Some say this was politically motivated against the Tory peer, and that as an MP he was interfering inappropriately with an investigation. Others say he simply believed police procedures had not been properly followed. A senior officer, DCI Paul Settle, left his post as a result. The Met interviewed Lord Brittan and, after further advice, concluded the original decision was correct, but didn’t tell Brittan or reinstate Settle.
What do the police say?
That their investigations into a large number of claims of child abuse continue, amid expressions of concern that too much media coverage will damage “live” investigations and make witnesses reluctant to come forward.
So Lord Brittan was entirely innocent?
Of the rape charge, yes; his friends believe the other claims are untrue as well. But even with the discrediting of some of the accusers, campaigners say there remain some loose ends. For now, those are being overlooked.